Paulina Quintao – The National Director for Agriculture, Horticulture and Extension at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishery (MAP), Amaro Ximenes, said every year the government provides seeds only to some farmers because it only
He said last year, the government had a limited budget allocation to buy seeds from the Commercial Seeds Associations in the country, and could only purchase for example 25 tons of maize seeds, 25 tons of rice seeds, 6 tons of green beans, and 8 tons of soy beans that were distributed to some farmers.
He cited as an example that the government bought 25 tons of rice seeds only, while there exists 63,000 hectares of potential rice fields in Timor-Leste, and each hectare of land requires 20 kg of rice seeds.
He said this is not sufficient for all farmers and not because there are no seeds, but because the ministry was allocated a limited budget to purchase the seeds from seed producers.
"We need over one million kg of each seed to distribute to farmers, but we are only able to purchase 25 tons of each seed. It is obvious that only some farmers will receive seeds while others won't," he said at Balide Church, in Vila Verde, Dili.
He informed that every year, the government contracts a company to buy seeds from the commercial seed producers associations in the country who will directly distribute to the farmers based on a list for every municipality.
Based on the strategic plan for the agriculture sector, the government is to provide seed subsidies to 30% of the farming population but in reality less than 1% of the farmers get the seeds supported by the government.
A farmer from Viqueque municipality, Francisca da Costa said, said they are experiencing a shortage in seeds including of maize and beans seeds.
She said in the rainy season, they often ask other farmers to give them a small portion of their seeds to grow. "I had no maize seeds, so recently I asked some seeds from my brother to be able to plant," she said.
She said every year during the harvest season, she always saves some seeds but unfortunately there was no production last year, and that means they will not have their own seeds to plant in 2019.
On the other hand, Agricultural Researcher at the Organization La'o Hamutuk, Mariano Pereira, said currently the government is actively developing maize and rice seeds, but continues to import other seeds, such as potatoes and onion seeds.
He said the government needs to have a mechanism to increase the capacity and ability of farmers to store seeds so they do not just depend on the government.
"I think it is important to invest and promote local seeds, and to provide training to farmers on harvesting and conserving their own seeds so that the government can focus on providing more technical assistance and farming machinery," he said.